The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious is our eighth – yes, eighth – installment of a franchise that it would have been ridiculous to imagine there being that many entries. We’re a long way from the original 16 years ago that was sort of a drag racing rip-off of Point Break, or Point Brake as I deemed it in my review. That said, a common thread among the series is its willingness to be knowingly ridiculous while weaving in endless monologues about the importance of family.

The formula took on a different tone in predecessor Furious 7, which admirably managed to deal with the death of franchise stalwart Paul Walker in its conclusion. In that sense, Fate ushers in a new chapter. New characters are introduced, old ones are rehashed, and the level of silliness is brought to a level not quite seen before. Yes, cars go fast here. However, part 8 owes more to James Bond flicks when they were less grim (think Roger Moore era with a quarter billion dollar budget).

As I’ve written in previous Furious critiques, plot is secondary but here’s what you need to know: Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has turned on his team. Sort of. He’s being forced to team up with criminal mastermind Cipher (Charlize Theron), who evades authorities in the air on an invisible plane. See what I mean? Isn’t that the kind of villain 007 might battle in the late seventies? Now on the wrong side of justice, Dominic and Cipher must go against Dom’s “family”, including wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and the familiar players played by Dwayne Johnson (whose goofy character is still good for some funny and bizarre moments), Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Kurt Russell, and more. Part 7’s main villain Jason Statham is more of a team player this time around and even Oscar winner Helen Mirren turns up as his mum. Statham is granted a fight scene towards the end where he has to be delicate with some cargo he’s carrying (you’ll see what I mean). The scene is genuinely humorous and quite well choreographed.

The plot is all an excuse for the massive action spectacles and globe trotting we’ve become accustomed to and we have it here in Cuba, New York City, and Russia. The climactic sequence set on Russian frozen tundra employs the usual expensive vehicles, but we also are treated to tanks and submarines. Remember the ice action in Pierce Brosnan’s Bond flick Die Another Day? Think that, but it’s not embarrassingly awful.

Our Furious sagas rise and fall on the ability for us to check our brains at the Universal logo. By the third act, I’d succumbed once again to its cheesy charms. Maybe one day this series will truly stall like it briefly did in 2006’s Tokyo Drift. Not yet though and that’s some kind of testament to its durability.

*** (out of four)

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift Movie Review

2006’s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is the third entry in the series. It brings in a new cast and places its setting on a new continent. The results, however, are not too pleasing.

With Paul Walker, Tyrese, and everyone else out of the picture (for now), Tokyo Drift centers on Sean, a rebellious high school kid who loves drag racing. So much so that Sean gets into trouble after one particularly fouled up race and is sent to Tokyo to live with his military father.

Sean is played by Lucas Black, who you may remember as the kid from Sling Blade. He grew up to look a little bit like a young Dave Matthews. And he definitely grew up… I couldn’t help but chuckle when his character is supposed to be 17. The actor was 24 when he played the role. He looks 28. There’s one scene where some girls are flirting with Sean and his friend exclaims, “Ladies, he’s underage!” I wanted to shout “No he isn’t!!” back at the screen.

With the move to Tokyo, Sean strikes up a friendship with a famous actor played by Bill Murray who’s in town to shoot a liquor commercial. Wait. Wrong movie. Sean actually strikes up a friendship with Twinkie, played by Bow Wow. I’m assuming at one point his name was Lil Twinkie. Of course, Twinkie gets Sean right back into the street racing world.

This mixes Sean up with DK (Brian Tee), whose uncle Mr. Kamata (the legendary Sonny Chiba) is a fixture in the Yakuza. Naturally, DK has a girlfriend Neela (Natalie Kelley) that Sean stupidly goes after. Just like Paul Walker does! And there’s also Han (Sung Kang), who works for Mr. Kamata and takes a liking to Sean.

Tokyo Drift introduces us to the practice “drifting”, in which the driver intentionally loses traction in the rear wheels to get through corners, etc… And that’s straight from Wikipedia, folks, so ya know it’s true! We even get a couple of monologues after how drifting makes you feel like a free person. Or some nonsense like that.

The movie takes a long way to get where it’s going and the first hour is quite a bore. When we finally get a pretty badass race through the streets of Tokyo, Drift makes a rather severe shift in tone that feels a bit jarring.

Although there is that aforementioned race that works and the climactic race down a mountain that is effective, Tokyo Drift is mostly weak sauce. None of the acting is particularly memorable and the screenplay feels lazy (lame references to Justin Timberlake and Beyonce stand out). Director Justin Lin takes over the franchise and he can direct action, but there’s not enough of it. Some of the production design is rather sweet looking so props to the team behind that.

By the end, we do get a cameo from a major star in the franchise. I don’t wanna give too much away, but here’s a hint. It’s not Viola Davis, but it’s an actor with the same initials. Perhaps I’ve said too much.

The original was a mixed bag that had a lot of solid moments. I found the second to be an improvement because it knew it was trash, but was often fun as hell. Tokyo Drift simply doesn’t have much going for it and it definitely the worst of the bunch so far.

** (out of four)

The blog series will continue with film #4 Fast&Furious.

2 Fast 2 Furious Movie Review

Continuing on with my blog series evaluating the films in the Fast and Furious franchise, we move onto #2 in the series titled 2 Fast 2 Furious. Released a decade ago, the sequel incorporates future Twitter speak with its title. Apparently Too Fast Too Furious didn’t work. Or The Faster and the Furiouser. Or the obvious choice – Fast and Furious 2. Due to their choice, I have chosen 2 incorporate Twitter speak as best I can 4 the remainder of this review:

2 Fast 2 Furious moves the action away from California 2 Miami w/lead character Brian (Paul Walker) going undercover once again 2 infiltrate drug lord Verone (Cole Hauser), who from here on out will b known as “Scarface lite.” If Brian successfully brings down Scarface lite, his criminal record achieved in the original film will b wiped clean. Furthermore, it will allow the character 2 try 2 rectify his deserved reputation as the Worst Undercover Cop in Film History. Brian enlists his childhood friend Roman (Tyrese Gibson) 2B his partner on the mission. They also partner up w/a hot undercover customs agent, played by Eva Mendes (#goslingsgirlfriend).

The film brings in Boyz N The Hood director John Singleton, taking over the franchise from Rob Cohen. There’s also no Vin Diesel, Jordana Brewster, or Michelle Rodgriguez, but Luda is in the house! (#standup) (#chickenandbeer) (#getback) (#southernhospitality) Like the original, the dialogue n character development often leave much 2B desired. Roman’s main character trait is that he likes 2 eat a lot. LMFAO! Scarface lite is a rather dull villain. And, once again, Brian chooses the 1 girl 2 develop a crush on (#goslingsgirlfriend) that he really shouldn’t.

Having said all that, I’ll B damned if 2 Fast 2 Furious isn’t mostly a whole lotta fun. This is more action flick than street racing flick & the action sequences r well-done n exciting. 2 Fast is certainly not an intelligent movie, but whaddya expect? I was highly entertained most of the time – more so, in fact, than I was w/the original. I know this goes against the general consensus, but I gotta B honest. YOLO. Plus, the 1st 1 didn’t have a bizarre sequence where a rat gnaws on a dude’s stomach! SMH

If u leave leave ur critical nitpicking behind going in2 the pic, there’s a good time 2B had here.

*** (outta 4)

I’ll b back w/the 3rd Fast movie Tokyo Drift soon… c ya! ttyl 😉

The Fast and the Furious Movie Review

Being that the top two grossing opening weekends in Universal Pictures history is the last two installments of the Fast and Furious franchise, I felt it was time for yours truly to take a look at the series.

Yes, believe it or not, I have only seen the original F+F picture. That was twelve years ago and I barely remembered it. So what’s a blogger to do? Why go out and buy the first five flicks and review them all for your perusal. Hopefully, I’ll watch ’em in enough time to catch the sixth feature in the theater and blog about it as well.

Let’s begin with the franchise’s first entry, 2001’s The Fast and the Furious. Director Rob Cohen brings us into the world of California street racing when LAPD officer Brian (Paul Walker) goes undercover to solve a series of truck hijackings. This introduces him to a team of racers led by Dominic (Vin Diesel). His crew includes his girl Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), the one that doesn’t like Brian, the one whose dad is in jail, and, um, the other one. Of course, Brian also falls in love with Dominic’s sister (Jordana Brewster) in order for him to be emotionally invested.

Dominic’s crew is in a long-standing rivalry with an Asian street gang, led by Johnny Tran (Die Another Day‘s Rick Yune) and it is that crew that Brian initially suspects of being the perps. It just can’t be Dominic, especially after he explains his daddy issues to Brian in a male bonding moment.

Truth be told, The Fast and the Furious is no great of example of writing or, in my cases, acting. Walker is a bit of blank slate and Brewster is rather dull as well. The one with screen presence is definitely Mr. Diesel, as well as Ms. Rodriguez.

It’s worth noting that Fast seems directly influenced by an action pic that came ten years before it, Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break. Call this Point Brake, if you will. Only it’s not near as good.

Where Fast often succeeds is its well choreographed car sequences that certainly make it highly watchable. Director Cohen directs the pic with energy and style with a soundtrack that bumps with Ludacris and Ja Rule beats for the first half and mostly techno in the second half.

Is it enough for me say the original Fast is a good movie? Not really, but it’s close. I certainly get why legions of moviegoers enjoyed it. If I’m being honest, though, I spent the last few minutes of the film wondering two things:

1) In the climactic truck hijacking, how come there’s zero traffic on a freeway other than the hijacked truck and Brian, Dominic, and crew?

2) Isn’t Paul Walker’s character literally the worst undercover cop in the history of undercover cops?

Still, the o.g. F+F gets the franchise off to a serviceable start. Who knew that this modestly budgeted flick would become the biggest franchise in the world that doesn’t involve superheroes or is based on a wildly popular series of books?

**1/2 (out of four)

We’ll see what the gang is up to as my blog series continues shortly with 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious.